Michael Bothager

Photographer

The Dirty Touch

Mitrovica, best known from the ethnic clashes between Serbs and Kosovo-Albanians during and after the Kosovo War in 1998-1999. Kosovo-Albanians, Serbs and the Roma population have all been persecuted. Today, a large part of the Roma population still lives in IDP (internally displaced people) camps in northern Mitrovica, in areas of high lead pollution from the Trepca Industries. Camps, that UN KFOR forces moved out of due to the pollution. Two camps remains, Cesmin Lug and Osterode, the former french KFOR camp. The Roma people still living here are suffering from poor slum housing, lack of water and toilets and the lead dust from the nearby mine tailings.

In Tito’s Yugoslavia, the city was defined by a single, large company, The Trepca Industries, who run the mine and the factories for decades. In the 1970‘s more than 24.000 workers was employed in one of Yugoslavia’s proudest companies. The Trepca legacy is today more than 33 million tonnes of mine tailings scattered around Mitrovica, defunct factories and wastelands, and an unemployment rate of 70 percent. In 2000, UN forces closed down the lead melting plant in northern Mitrovica, the areas most polluting factory. Today the air quality is slowly getting better, but the mine tailings stored under the open sky is still a health hazard.

In Mitrovica, the children has four times as high lead concentrations in their blood as children from other nearby cities. Playing in Mitrovica is playing with a dirty touch.

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Erduan, 8, has lived his entire life in the polluted Cesmin Lug Camp. His lead count is 67 μg/dl. WHO says that any value over 10 μg/dl is damaging, and values over 45 μg/dl requires immediate medical treatment. Currently there is no treatment available to the residents in the camp.
Erduan, 8, has lived his entire life in the polluted Cesmin Lug Camp. His lead count is 67 μg/dl. WHO says that any value over 10 μg/dl is damaging, and values over 45 μg/dl requires immediate medical treatment. Currently there is no treatment available to the residents in the camp.
X-Ray image of Senhia’s (4) lungs. Living in the camp means poor insulation from the weather and moisture. These conditions has affected Senhia’s health. She suffers from reoccurring bronchitis. Her bad health and high levels of lead in her bloodstream is hindering her growth.
X-Ray image of Senhia’s (4) lungs. Living in the camp means poor insulation from the weather and moisture. These conditions has affected Senhia’s health. She suffers from reoccurring bronchitis. Her bad health and high levels of lead in her bloodstream is hindering her growth.
The Trepca Zinc Plant in Southern Mitrovica, where large storage areas of old mine tailings is next to the Sitnica River, where locals fish.
The Trepca Zinc Plant in Southern Mitrovica, where large storage areas of old mine tailings is next to the Sitnica River, where locals fish.
Flurim Masurica and his daughter Senhia, 4, are IDP’s (internally displaced people) from Roma Mahala in the southern part of Mitrovica. At the end of the civil war  in 2000, the Roma’s and the Serb’s where chased out of the southern Mitrovica. The IDP’s settled in the UN Camp Cesmin Lug and other camps in the northern Mitrovica. The Masurica Family of 4 has lived here for 10 years.
Flurim Masurica and his daughter Senhia, 4, are IDP’s (internally displaced people) from Roma Mahala in the southern part of Mitrovica. At the end of the civil war in 2000, the Roma’s and the Serb’s where chased out of the southern Mitrovica. The IDP’s settled in the UN Camp Cesmin Lug and other camps in the northern Mitrovica. The Masurica Family of 4 has lived here for 10 years.
After the war in 2000 entrepreneurs like Genc scavenged burned out cars and bombed out houses for metals like Zinc and Copper. Today, Genc runs a small recycling plant in the outskirts of Mitrovica. Since the Trepca Industries closed down the majority of their plants, unemployment has been more than 50%.
After the war in 2000 entrepreneurs like Genc scavenged burned out cars and bombed out houses for metals like Zinc and Copper. Today, Genc runs a small recycling plant in the outskirts of Mitrovica. Since the Trepca Industries closed down the majority of their plants, unemployment has been more than 50%.
The 30 year old dump site Germova was restored by danish DANIDA after the civil war. Residents from Mitrovica and other nearby villages scavenges the dump site for recyclable plastic and metals. When the dump trucks arrive, the waste pickers jump onto the truck to get the best pieces as it empties it load.
The 30 year old dump site Germova was restored by danish DANIDA after the civil war. Residents from Mitrovica and other nearby villages scavenges the dump site for recyclable plastic and metals. When the dump trucks arrive, the waste pickers jump onto the truck to get the best pieces as it empties it load.
To keep the dust in the city to a minimum, store owners was the pavement in front of their shops regularly. The dust is a serious health hazard to children playing on the dirt and on the floors at home. Campaigns and radio spots educates the residents, but the children in Mitrovica city still has 4 times higher amount of lead in their blood compared to children in other cities in the area.
To keep the dust in the city to a minimum, store owners was the pavement in front of their shops regularly. The dust is a serious health hazard to children playing on the dirt and on the floors at home. Campaigns and radio spots educates the residents, but the children in Mitrovica city still has 4 times higher amount of lead in their blood compared to children in other cities in the area.
Elhame has lived with her husband Flurim and their 2 children Senhia, 4, and Erduan, 8, in the Cesmin Lug Camp for the last 10 years. Living here has severely damaged their health, and weekly she checks the lead in their blood. The lead pollution severely affects the evolution and growth of children, making it difficult to learn and may ultimately result in death.
Elhame has lived with her husband Flurim and their 2 children Senhia, 4, and Erduan, 8, in the Cesmin Lug Camp for the last 10 years. Living here has severely damaged their health, and weekly she checks the lead in their blood. The lead pollution severely affects the evolution and growth of children, making it difficult to learn and may ultimately result in death.
The Cesmin Lug camp was build by UN on lead polluted soil, and with lead painted boards. The neighboring area are mine tailings from the Trepca Mine, stored under the open sky. In 2004 a recreative area, “Alley of Health” was established nearby, where French UN soldiers would exercise until  tests shown that the soldiers became lead polluted. Today, some 33 million tonnes of mine tailings still stored around Mitrovica’s exposed to the weather.
The Cesmin Lug camp was build by UN on lead polluted soil, and with lead painted boards. The neighboring area are mine tailings from the Trepca Mine, stored under the open sky. In 2004 a recreative area, “Alley of Health” was established nearby, where French UN soldiers would exercise until tests shown that the soldiers became lead polluted. Today, some 33 million tonnes of mine tailings still stored around Mitrovica’s exposed to the weather.
The Nishila family settled in the Cesmin Lug Camp in 2000. Today the camp is home for 300 Roma-Ashkali family.
The Nishila family settled in the Cesmin Lug Camp in 2000. Today the camp is home for 300 Roma-Ashkali family.
Mitrovica is one of Europe’s most polluted cities. 33 million tonnes of lead-heavy mine tailings is stored under the open skies, and industrial waste is regularly burned outside.
Mitrovica is one of Europe’s most polluted cities. 33 million tonnes of lead-heavy mine tailings is stored under the open skies, and industrial waste is regularly burned outside.
Sewer pipes exits into the Lushta River, running though Mitrovica.
Sewer pipes exits into the Lushta River, running though Mitrovica.
Sabahate does the dishes in the Cesmin Lug Camp. The homes in the camp are comparable to a small suburbian garage in USA. Families up to 10 live here, eating, sleeping and living in a single room. The barracks are build with thin plywood, leaks at the ceiling and are difficult to heat up.
Sabahate does the dishes in the Cesmin Lug Camp. The homes in the camp are comparable to a small suburbian garage in USA. Families up to 10 live here, eating, sleeping and living in a single room. The barracks are build with thin plywood, leaks at the ceiling and are difficult to heat up.
Mitrovica used to be defined by the Trepca Industries, the city’s largest company. Since the civil war in 1999 and 2000, most of the Trepca activities was closed down, and the areas has decayed since then. The Zinc Factory in southern Mitrovica has large storage areas next to the Sitnica river, where rainwater seeps from the waste into the river.
Mitrovica used to be defined by the Trepca Industries, the city’s largest company. Since the civil war in 1999 and 2000, most of the Trepca activities was closed down, and the areas has decayed since then. The Zinc Factory in southern Mitrovica has large storage areas next to the Sitnica river, where rainwater seeps from the waste into the river.